HC Deb 14 July 1993 vol 228 cc975-6
9. Mr. Alton

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last discussed Bosnia with his European counterparts.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

My right hon. Friend did so at the Copenhagen meeting of the European Council on 21 and 22 June and, again, in the margins of the Tokyo summit held between 7 and 9 July.

Mr. Alton

In the absence of European troops in Bosnia and of the political will to commit them, can the Minister say what we shall do when the members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference appeal to the United Nations to commit up to 18,000 troops there? Given our own indifference to the plight of people who have been masscared in Bosnia, to the mutilation of that country, and to its right to self-determination and sovereignty, and even though we have failed to commit troops for the purpose of saving people there, we should say that we will not oppose the placing of Islamic troops to defend the interests of Muslims, who continue to be massacred.

Mr. Hogg

I have heard some pretty silly questions in this place, but that is one of the silliest. All hon. Members, with the possible exception of the hon. Gentleman, know that we now have 2,400 troops in Bosnia. In addition, there are very substantial French and other European formations. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is talking about.

Sir Michael Marshall

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, in consultation with our European partners, there is scope to seek to deter aggression in Bosnia if we can take forward the process of bringing to justice those who are guilty of crimes against humanity? In that regard, does my right hon. and learned Friend believe that it will be possible to name names so that we can deter those who have gone in for ethnic cleansing and other horrors?

Mr. Hogg

The Security Council has made it plain that there should be an ad hoc Yugoslav war crimes tribunal. I agree with that. What is even more important, however, is that we get the parties to the fighting to start negotiating.

Mr. McAvoy

Does the Minister really believe that Serbian expansionism will stop when Bosnia vanishes from the map? It is well known that the Serbians will extend their aggression to other areas in the Balkans once they have finished with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Secretary of State has outlined the difficulties and dangers involved in supporting the use of United Nations troops in Bosnia. Does the Minister accept, however, that the same doubts and difficulties existed at the time of the Kuwait-Iraq war? The Secretary of State supported intervention then. What is the difference between Iraq and Bosnia? Is it Arab oil?

Mr. Hogg

Two questions are rolled up in that question. As to Bosnia, it is our determination that there shall continue to be a state of Bosnia. We are seeking to carry forward negotiations whereby the three warring factions can live in peace within the existing frontiers of Bosnia. Whether that is a confederal or federal solution is a matter for the parties involved. That we hope and intend to see a state of Bosnia in future is clear and beyond doubt.

The hon. Gentleman's second question was broadly whether the situation in former Yugoslavia is the same as that in the Gulf. The answer is no. There are remarkable differences. To start with, what we are seeing in Bosnia and indeed throughout much of former Yugoslavia is, in essence, a civil war. What we saw in the Gulf was a clear attack on one sovereign state by another. Moreover, in the Gulf war it was easy to define one's political objective, which was the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait. In Bosnia, what one is seeking to achieve is political negotiation and then a settlement through discussion.

Mr. Churchill

Is it not a cruel and cynical betrayal of the Bosnian Muslims that the United Nations should send in a United Nations protection force with no mandate to protect and should declare safe havens that it has no intention to make safe? For how much longer will the United Nations and Her Majesty's Government maintain a position whereby we deny the victims of aggression any outside assistance and refuse to let them have access to the means of self-defence when we know that the other side—the Serbs—started the conflict with more than 10 times as much ammunition and hardware?

Mr. Hogg

We need to be clear about this. The United Nations is neither more nor less than its member states. Therefore, the essential question is whether the member states—in particular, the United Kingdom—are prepared to put combat troops into Bosnia to wage war. If the answer is no—and that, indeed, is the answer—people must not encourage the Bosnian Muslims to suppose something different.